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Iranophobia and Obama the cyber-warrior
United States President Barack Obama, the relentless drone warrior, has a new and proud hat: the cyber-warrior. Hitherto cloaked by a thinning facade of engagement with America's adversaries, the emperor has no clothes, with scandalous foreign policy decisions exposing a rogue essence to which the new undeclared cyber-war against Iran can now be added.
Last Friday, the US media ended a month filled with rapid velocity volleys by America's Iran-bashing "desire machine", to borrow a term from the French authors Deleuze and Guattari, with the revelation that Obama personally orchestrated the dangerous cyber-attack on Iran's nuclear facilities known as Stuxnet,  in direct violation of international law and the UN Charter, as well as US laws that require congressional authorization for an act of war. Indeed, the news ought to jolt some members of US Congress to the importance of updating the War Powers Act in tune with the changing nature of contemporary warfare.
"People in Iran ask, is this the same Obama who offered the olive branch of dialogue and civility to Iran in his nowruz [Iranian New Year] messages? Obama has lost all credibility with the Iranian people now," said a Tehran University political science professor who spoke on condition of anonymity, describing the news regarding Obama's hand in the Stuxnet attack on Iran's nuclear infrastructure as "an act of war that should be condemned by the international community".
The cyber-attack and other technologies of sabotage and control used with such facility by Obama may be cutting edge but the underlying discourse is purely pre-modern and even medievalist, ie Machiavellian through and through. As such, Obama is hostage to the past with no prospect for real evolution, pinned to an ideology of Western domination pure and simple.
In this asymmetrical, technologically savvy contestation of power, the US's combination of soft and hard power is insatiably geared to the satisfaction of a modern totalitarian system nicely cloaked as "the world's greatest democracy" and legitimated by a whole array of "state apparatus" including the think-tanks and universities routinely dishing out legitimating discourses.
Unlike past totalitarian systems, written about by Hannah Arendt and others, the new American totalitarianism sustains its military adventurisms abroad in the name of a global "higher good", thus appearing as the custodian of ethics and morality, with deafening declarations of righteousness on the right to intervene in other countries in the name of combating genocide and countering nuclear weapons proliferation. Lacking from these endeavors is the slightest concern about the cognitive dissonance of simultaneously backing authoritarian and rights-abusive regimes, propped up to safeguard America's "vital interests".
Indeed, in analyzing the mindset of Obama the drone and cyber warrior, in the rogue behavior of transgressing other nation's sovereign rights one must take into account the modern history of America's "imperial presidency," the hegemonic temptations to dominate and cajole into line the recalcitrant lesser powers, the obsessive neurosis of targeting the '"hostile other", the infections of Israel's expansionism, the pathological non-disarmament entwined with flagship of counter-proliferation and instrumentalization of world institutions, and the like. Taken altogether, these speak of a major global malady that cannot be remedied until and unless there are new and effective barriers to unipolar American hegemony, which nowadays is basking in the ramifications of a weakened Europe forced to sheepishly toe Washington's line on all major international issues.
In this context, it would be nearly impossible for Washington to bring to a closure its addictive Iranophobia, to take appropriate steps to end the Iran nuclear standoff, and to discontinue its exploitation of the Iran nuclear crisis for the sake of its vast military-industrial complex. The red line of capitalist profitability would be much maligned if the Iran nuclear talks somehow were to succeed and culminate in a normalization of US-Iran relations, thus depriving US defense contractors of billions of dollars of arms sales to regional allies in the Middle East who need the American protectorate power. It is better to keep throwing monkey wrenches in the wheels of negotiation to set it back and thus keep the crisis going rather indefinitely.
Again, the problem must be analyzed on multiple levels, including political psychology, political economy, geostrategy, and the like. This is important because one must ask why Obama would commit the serious tort of cyber-warfare and sabotage in Iran when his own intelligence community is on record that Iran's nuclear program has been peaceful since 2003? And, indeed, what explains the peculiar timing of this public disclosure only a couple of weeks before the crucial Iran talk in Moscow scheduled for June 18 and 19?
Certainly, this is not intended to convince Iran that it can trust Obama and vest any hope for a better treatment than his predecessors. The news regarding Obama's presidential directive for the Stuxnet attack on Iran follows a string of other Iranophobic media pieces - eg, American claims that Iran has been plotting the assassination of US diplomats, and that Iran has been razing buildings at Parchin military complex suspected of nuclear weapons-related experimentations (some 12 years ago!). All these reflect a systematic pattern of media-based planned Iranophobia with new accusations against Iran on a monthly or bi-weekly basis.
According to the Tehran professor mentioned above, the coincidence of new cyber-attack on Iran, known as Flame, with the revelations on Obama and Stuxnet "simply reinforces the suspicion that the US, working with Israel, is behind this new attack as well. Some people in Iran are now wondering why Iran continues to have dialogue with a sworn enemy that has declared war on it in so many repugnant ways?"
Without doubt, there is a growing Iranian cynicism concerning the futility of diplomatic engagement with the US and its Western partners, echoed by, among others, the former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who according to the Iranian media pointedly asked President Mahmud Ahmadinejad if Iran was gaining anything by participating in those talks? Similarly, many pundits in Iran have been making the point that while it is in Obama's favor to continue the nuclear talks, Iran has no similar interest since Obama and the entire US government have committed themselves to the Israeli red line of stopping Iran's nuclear enrichment program.
"Why should Iran do any favors to Obama, who has done nothing for Iran except setting up formidable sanctions, attacking Iran's nuclear infrastructure and scientists, and threatening Iran by constantly claiming the window of diplomacy is closing? Iran is now on the verge of shutting down that window and letting the chips fall where they may," said the Tehran professor, who discounts the probability of a US and/or Israeli strike on Iran since that would cause a "regional conflagration and hurt the world economy including US and Europe."
This may not be such a bad strategy after all and hardly a case of brinksmanship. Iran is now so disgusted with Obama that may just walk away from negotiations no matter what, and the question is if Obama can truly afford that?
1. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stuxnet
Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy (Westview Press) . For his Wikipedia entry, click here. He is author of Reading In Iran Foreign Policy After September 11 (BookSurge Publishing , October 23, 2008) and Looking for rights at Harvard. His latest book is UN Management Reform: Selected Articles and Interviews on United Nations CreateSpace (November 12, 2011).